Resume Rejected? How to Avoid Getting Ruled Out at First Glance

resume rejectedRecently, I was speaking with someone in my network about her recruitment process. She can’t believe the dreadful standard of resumes from applicants. Cleary, the tons of messages about avoiding basic errors are not getting through. Surveys suggest this is not an isolated scenario… so many are having their resume rejected at first glance.

So what’s going on? Is it carelessness, inconvenience, laziness, ignorance or desperation? Any of these are likely to result in having your resume ruled out too early in the process. Consequently, you miss the opportunity to show the best of you at an interview. And, of course, the employer misses out on potential talent.

Here are some resume writing tips that will help you avoid having your resume rejected…

The Purpose of Resumes

From your resume, employers want to learn three things:

  1. Can you do this job?
  2. Why should we choose you?
  3. Will you fit in with us?

So spend time tapping into your self-awareness – data (facts about you), information (who you are as a person), and wisdom (how you see the world). Gather knowledge about the job, the company, and its culture. Be visible to the employer in advance so you are on their radar.

Now you are better prepared to complete your resume. The resume is one of your tickets to play the game and it has to be right. If not, you’ll find your resume rejected by recruiters and hiring managers. Once you are ruled in, then you have to stand out above all the other applicants who are ruled in.

The purpose of a resume is to get you an interview. It won’t get you the job on its own. What does an employer need to know to gain enough interest to find out more? Your aim is to get the employer to think ‘I want to meet this person’. It’s your promise of value to an employer.

Don’t rule yourself out through preventable errors and by not putting the necessary effort in.

Selecting the Information

What do you include and exclude in the content? Above all, tailor your resume to match the specific job requirements every single time! Generic resumes do not work because they suggest you don’t care enough and lack interest in the role or employer. Imagine employing someone like that! Use relevant information about yourself tailored to the job specification, description, and advert. You are more likely to get interviewed if you show a workplace mindset rather than just skills on your resume. Because some employers hire for attitude and train for skills once you join. Quality is more important than quantity, so make the time to get it right.

Focus on Your Impact

Employers like to visualise potential employees in the job. Can they see you in this role, team, project, culture? So, make it easier for them by showing how your past successes are transferable. Explain how those same abilities will help this employer. Be specific and focus on results. For example, “I increased sales by 10% in a sluggish market through Facebook marketing. Therefore, you will get someone with a proven track record, social media expertise, drive and who thrives in difficult times.”

Length, Layout, and Structure

How long should a resume be? 2 pages max, 1 page if you can, never 6 pages. Six pages will definitely see your resume rejected.

It’s easy to obsess over the layout and how your resume looks. Luckily, there are many apps and tools available to help you set out your content automatically and that look smart. And if you want something different from traditional text-based resumes, try alternative formats such as Slideshare, Infographic or Video.

What structure works best for specific jobs?

  • Chronoligical = reverse order of jobs, starting with the most recent; shows your progress; best if applying from a job.
  • Skills = more useful if you don’t have much job experience.
  • Hybrid = skills section followed by chronological section or chronology of jobs described in skills format; useful if you have career gaps or out of work.

Language Matters

Accuracy | grammar, punctuation, and spelling must be perfect. Remember, spellchecker doesn’t check for sense. Avoid text speak. Proof-read your resume then get someone else to check it. Electronic scanning of keywords happens and will rule you out if keywords are missing and spelling errors occur. If you stand out, then a real person will read your resume. Use sector/industry specific language and keywords/phrases from the job specification/description.

Title and tagline | Don’t bother putting “Resume” in the title (it’s obvious!). Just your name – big and bold. To show confidence, a tagline is an optional branding statement for summing up your value.

Summary/profile | why is your opening paragraph so important? Recruiters glance the first time, read the second time;  it’s the key place to hit the sweet spot where your unique offer meets the job in hand; be concise and avoid cliches; write it after writing the rest of your resume.

Your achievements | what verbs help describe them? For example: lead, managed, organised, evaluated, negotiated, advised, increased, enhanced, improved, exceeded, gained, saved, prevented. Link commercial awareness to your academic qualifications. For example, “fluency in French” is better than “studied French Literature”.

You only get out what you put in. What will you do make sure you don’t find your resume rejected?


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at LearningToLeap.


David Shindler AuthorAbout the Author: David Shindler helps you to be clearer, more confident, and purposeful so you take the right job and career actions for you. Career Coach, Blogger, Online Courses for young professionals, Books on developing your employability, internships, and critical attitudes for success.


Also published on Medium.

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